Eastern Promises – A Movie Review

I really enjoyed Viggo Mortensen in David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence, so when I heard they were teaming up again for Eastern Promises, I had very high expectations.

 

Eastern Promises offers a powerfully subdued yet intense performance by Viggo Mortensen as a Russian driver/enforcer working his way up London’s most notorious Russian crime family.  Mortensen has proven himself a chameleon with the roles he’s chosen of late, and I had no trouble accepting him as a merciless, cold, calculating—and oddly charming—criminal.

 

The premise of the story seems straightforward on the surface, but there are some complex developments that caught me unawares.  Essentially Naomi Watts, a hospital worker, is trying to track down relation for a baby recently born to a teenage Russian prostitute who died during labor.  All she has is a diary written in Russian, which, as fate would have it, leads her right to the door of the Russian mob and Viggo Mortensen.  Watts finds herself intertwined in an alien world, ultimately putting the baby in more danger than she ever could have realized.

 

Cronenberg delivers a compelling and utterly realistic film delving into a topic I found completely original.  I’ve never seen much involving the Russian mafia, especially one based in London, so there was nothing familiar to me about this movie.  I’m certain that’s one of the many reasons I enjoyed it so much.

 

There are moments of potent violence in Eastern Promises, but they are brief and not as frequent as you might expect.  The psychological tension is palpable in this film, and that’s what will have you on the edge of your seat more so than any bloodshed.

 

I would, however, be remiss to avoid discussing the infamous bathhouse knife fight.  Yes, Viggo Mortensen displays extreme devotion to his character by recording a scene totally nude as men attack him with knives in a bathhouse.  I suppose if you hit pause you could see everything you wanted to know about Mortensen, but it all happens so fast and the camera work is so sporadic that the viewer sees nothing more than glimpses and blurs.  I can’t imagine getting tossed around on tile floors like that without any sort of … well, you know.  Mortensen is definitely willing to take one for the team and suffer for his art.

 

Eastern Promises moved at an incredibly fast pace and the tense storyline and character-driven acting impressed me to no end.   I had high expectations for this film, and they were exceeded.

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The Heartbreak Kid – A Movie Review

A remake directed by the incorrigible Farrelly brothers, I really expected to like The Heartbreak Kid.  After all, it stars Ben Stiller, so we essentially have the same team who brought us There’s Something About Mary.

Unfortunately, while this movie had a few really funny visual gags, the movie as a whole disappointed and I wouldn’t recommend it.

The major problem with the film is the fact that there is not one sympathetic or identifiable character throughout.  The movie really leaves you feeling a bit scummy, and nobody wants that.

Stiller plays a devoted bachelor who jumps into marriage due to peer pressure.  His wife he dated for only a few weeks turns out to be a bit wacky, and he instantly regrets his decision.  On their honeymoon, Stiller’s new wife gets severely sunburned and has to stay indoors, at which point Stiller, while eating alone, meets another woman who he’s sure is the one for him.  He spends the rest of the movie lying to both women and acting the general sleazebag.  Of course, he eventually gets caught in his deceptions, and there is really no way to reconcile the storyline in a way that makes us feel good about things.

I don’t remember this movie doing well at the theatres, and I can see why.  While There’s Something About Mary and Dumb and Dumber were crude, the Farrelly brothers still gave us a hero-albeit flawed-to root for.  The Heartbreak Kid offers us no such character.

3:10 to Yuma – A Movie Review

While the premise of this western is fairly straightforward, it is anything but simple thanks to two actors who give us their absolute best.

Russell Crowe, playing a role he was born for, is Ben Wade, a charming, debonair, magnetic thief and murderer.  Christian Bale plays Dan Evans, a dismembered Civil War veteran and small-time rancher on the verge of losing everything.  When the two men’s worlds collide, Bale has a chance at making some money if he can only get the captured Crowe on the 3:10 train to Yuma.

Though Crowe is technically the villain, you can’t help but root for him when he clashes with everyone but Bale, whose desperation to provide for his family and capture some self-respect in the process is heart breaking.  The audience can’t help but hope against hope that Bale becomes the man he so acutely wants to be.  At times it seems even Crowe’s character is rooting for Bale, thus making his role as “villain” all the more ambiguous. 

The sheer acting of these two men and the charisma they emit makes the movie speed along.  It has moments of terrible violence, light-hearted comedy, pure drama, and suspense that will make you feel as though someone is sitting on your heart. 

I completely recommend you watch this movie.  If you are a fan of westerns, Crowe, or Bale, you will not go disappointed, because 3:10 to Yuma is an example of the best of each.  If you’re a fan of none of those things, I dare you to check it out anyway, because I bet you’ll be won over by the time you’re finished.

Timbuktu by Paul Auster – A Book Review

I absolutely admire Paul Auster because whenever I pick up one of his books, I totally have no idea what to expect.  You’ve surely noticed how some authors basically tell the same story over and over again?  Not Auster.  I’ve read quite a few of his works by now, and while he has similar themes delving into aspects of humanity, he delivers each and every one of said themes in a totally original and captivating manner.

 

Timbuktu is unlike anything I thought Auster capable of writing.  Our narrator and protagonist is Mr. Bones, a through-and-through mutt owned by a delusional and kind-hearted vagabond named Willy.  We see life through Mr. Bones’ eyes, and Auster does a magnificent job of breaking we humans down to our most essential characteristics.  Mr. Bones sees life as it is, and sees us for who we are.

 

The story took a while to heat up because Willy proclaimed early on that death awaited him.  The only problem was, while death certainly awaited him, I got irritated waiting for Willy to finally die so that Mr. Bones’ next step in life could begin.  Once Willy headed for Timbuktu and Mr. Bones blazed a new trail in the world, I could hardly put the book down.

 

Again, I can hardly believe the man who wrote The New York Trilogy, an utterly experimental and complex work, also wrote Timbuktu, a short novel told to us from the experiences of a dog.

 

Auster is a true artist, a man willing to write whatever he wants despite externally imposed conventions, and I dare you to resist the warmth and charm of this story and Mr. Bones.  Furthermore, I challenge you to keep a dry eye on the last page.

2001: A Space Odyssey – A Movie Review

Recently I’ve been on an old-school science fiction kick.  Unbelievably, I’d never seen what some critics have called one of the greatest movies of all time—2001: A Space Odyssey.  I can honestly tell you it was with great enthusiasm I put it into the DVD player.

 

To say I was unimpressed would be a gross understatement.  I found the movie with its lack of dialogue and ambiguous plotline rather dull.  Even the score, utilizing the work of classic composers, irritated me as it didn’t seem to fit the overall mood.

 

I am rationale enough to recognize that for a film made in 1968, it was probably visionary with its use of frame and special effects.  Even the narrative style was probably unlike anything else out there.  And, compared to most of the science fiction B-movies that were so popular near that era, it had to be a breath of fresh air.  Finally, yes, the storyline was greatly open to interpretation that may lead to immense philosophical debate, but when viewed simply as a self-contained story in and of itself, it left me unsatisfied.

 

I admire director Kubrick for his experimental genius and dedication to originality, but I’d be lying if I told you I enjoyed 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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The Imagination’s Provocation: Volume II – Join author Scott William Foley on another uncanny journey through the uncharted realms of the imagination! Although immensely different in genre, tone, and setting, Foley’s stories deal with that which we all have in common-our humanity. He brings us stories of love, regret, loss, hope, fear, and redemption. From the vastness of space to a lonely church pew, Foley’s tales will provoke your imagination in ways inconceivable! The Imagination’s Provocation: Volume II is an eclectic collection of short stories dealing with horror, fantasy, faith, science fiction, realism, and everything in between. Prepare for another plunge into the depths of Scott William Foley’s wildest imaginings!

Souls Triumphant: A NovelSouls Triumphant is the story of Joe and Alessandra, two recent college graduates who meet on the street and experience love at first sight. Through a series of adventures and tragedies, they learn the evil Ned and his fallen angels pursue them.  If the world is to survive, they must evade the villains’ nefarious intentions, befriend the enigmatic Buddy, and rekindle their true natures. It’s a story of romance, action, intrigue, fantasy, and faith.

The Imagination’s Provocation: Volume I – Enter worlds where the only limitation is the imagination.  Worlds where an old woman is left a fallen soldier’s medals of distinction for reasons she doesn’t understand; worlds where a cold-blooded killer vows to return from the dead and finish what he started; worlds where proposing to a girlfriend becomes a comedy of errors; worlds where a boy pays dearly for taking a dare to stay the night in a house no one would risk entering; worlds where a genetically-altered government agent, considered a hero by the people, is wanted for treason; worlds where a father loses touch with his son without caring to know why; worlds where a woman is bestowed the honor of destroying an unaware planet, but must choose if she will follow through with her duty; worlds where one word scribbled on a wall can change a person’s life forever, if one is willing to see it; worlds where a stranger’s random phone call renews faith.  Enter these worlds, and prepare to let the imagination soar!